Injuries Open Door for Chiefs Rookie RB Darwin Thompson

Matt Derrick

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson carried the ball 11 times in a 14-play fourth quarter drive in Sunday's 40-9 win over the Oakland Raiders, but head coach Andy Reid says it had nothing to do with managing the work load for veteran LeSean McCoy. He had another mission in mind.

“I had a load management for Thompson is what I had,” Reid said during his Monday press conference. “I was going to give him the ball.”

Thompson picked up 44 yards on the ground during the 75-yard drive consuming 9:32 off the clock. The rookie finished off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run for his first NFL score. 

Opportunities have proven scarce for Thompson so far in his rookie season, but that could change in the final month of the campaign. Damien Williams sat out Sunday's game with sore ribs, and Darrel Williams exited with a hamstring injury. Reid wants to continue bringing Thompson along in case he's needed in a larger role.

“Darrel's injury looked like he had a hamstring, and that didn't look very good, so there's probably a pretty good chance he doesn't play, Reid said. “That would be Darwin. He's got to be ready to go.”

Prior to Sunday, Thompson had just eight touches in 21 offensive snaps on the season. The rookie played 24 snaps against the Raiders. The Chiefs offensive coaches, including coordinator Eric Bieniemy and running backs coach Deland McCullough, have said they wanted to get Thompson more involved with the offense. Sunday's big lead afforded Reid the opportunity to give the rookie some work.

“The more he carries it and gets a feel for things I think the better he'll be as we finish up the stretch here of the season,” Reid said. “It was an opportunity, I thought it was important. He was in with the No. 1 line for the most part. It was against their starting defense, so I thought it was important that he got as many carries as possible.”

Thompson arrived in Kansas City with a reputation as a spark plug who can make plays when given the ball in space. Every conversation about Thompson included the phrase “rocked up” in describing his muscular 5-foot-8, 200-pound frame. He impressed during the preseason averaging 5 yards per carry and catching three passes for 38 yards and a score.

But it's the intangibles where Reid says Thompson made his greatest strides as a rookie.

“I think he's getting better in protections, which is always the toughest thing,” Reid said. “But he'll learn something from this game carrying the ball, just on the different blocking schemes, when you kind of need to hit it and when you can take another step or two to set somethings up. There are things in there that experience helps.”

Thompson doesn't make much of a scene in the Chiefs locker. He's not loud or boisterous, right guard Andrew Wylie says, he “just goes to work and does his job.” Reid says his teammates appreciate that about Thompson.

“He's one of those guys,” Reid said. “He's not the biggest guy, but he works his tail off in the work room and he works his tail off at practice, he studies like crazy. He doesn't say much, he just goes out and plays, and normally guys are attracted to that. They like him, he's got a good way about him.”

Thompson wasn't sure what his role might be against the Raiders. He's still unsure what role he might play next weekend against the New England Patriots, but he doesn't plan to change is preparation in any way.

“The same, it don't change,” Thompson said. “I practice like I'm first string every practice. I play like I'm first string, it don't change for me.”

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